Front Row

BJ The Chicago Kid, Live In Concert

For a few years now, BJ The Chicago Kid has been the answer when rappers known for taking their pound of flesh need a little help baring their souls — from Freddie "Gangsta" Gibbs to Top Dawg Entertainment's reluctant industry darlings, Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q. BJ's instrument is ragged on the edges and nearly perfectly translates the hard times he's often tapped to sing about — but he wields it in such a way that they're smooth going down. That old-soul voice was on full display in his set at NPR Music's show during CMJ.

A master role player, BJ switches from seducer to truth-teller to jilted lover and back again during this performance. With a flexible band — featuring an especially stunning guitarist, Jairus "J. Mo" Mozee — bending to his every inflection, BJ performed tracks from his debut album, 2012's Pineapple Now-Laters, and dipped into new singles, including the buttery, swoon-worthy "Soul Of A Woman."

The highlight came at the very end, when he tackled an almost 15-year-old song that still draws an immediate reaction out of even the most recalcitrant concert-goer: D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)." Many singers won't touch it, as the original recording is indelible. But BJ does it again and again, differently each time, and always tip-toeing a little further away from the past and closer to himself.

Set List

  • "Sex x Money x Sneakers"
  • "Free"
  • "Good Luv'n"
  • "Soul Of A Woman"
  • "Studio" (ScHoolboy Q)
  • "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" (D'Angelo)
Personnel

• BJ The Chicago Kid, vocals

• Richard "Scooter" Sledge, drums

• Jairus "J. Mo" Mozee, guitar

• Eric "El" Ingram, bass

Credits

Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Otis Hart; Event Manager: Saidah Blount; Audio Engineers: Richie Clarke, Kevin Wait; Videographers: Rachel Counce, Colin Marshall, Susan Hale Thomas; Host: Frannie Kelley; Special Thanks: Squarespace, (Le) Poisson Rouge; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann

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